Simulated impact of global climatic change on the geographic distribution of plant diversity
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Elevated concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (pCO2) are likely to lead to substantial warming in the coming century with altered hydrological regimes, thereby affecting the distribution of plant species. Here I use an individual-based modeling approach to plant diversity to estimate the impact of global climatic change on the geographic distribution of plant diversity. Differences in temperature, precipitation, and light use efficiency (to represent stimulation of photosynthesis due to higher pCO2) are used in isolation and in combination in order to investigate the role of these drivers. I find that the general warming associated with elevated pCO2 leads to profoundly different responses of simulated diversity in temperature-limited and tropical environments. While the growing season is lengthened in northern latitudes and therefore enables more plant growth strategies to be successful, elevated autotrophic respiration rates lead to higher mortality during plant establishment in the tropics, therefore reducing the range of successful plant growth strategies. The overall impact of elevated pCO2 on plant diversity will clearly be a combination of various factors. What these model results nevertheless point out is that global climatic change may alter plant diversity patterns disproportionally by reducing the overall success of plant establishment.